Tek-Tube LLC of Las Vegas has invested about $6 million for equipment to make PVC flexible hose and tubing for the spa industry.
"There have been problems with hose having inconsistent outside diameters," President John Porter said in a telephone interview.
In establishing the business, Porter aimed to save production time for plumbers assembling spas and reduce the potential for in-field leaks. His answer involved state-of-the-art equipment to coextrude flexible PVC over rigid PVC.
Tek-Tube makes the reinforced hose with outer-dimensional tolerances within 0.006 of an inch and guarantees the product for five years. Production began in January 1998.
In the process, the flexible material envelops the rigid PVC inside the head, and both are forced through the die for the final shape.
Upon exiting the die, the product is spun onto a mandrel that rotates in sync with material output. The hose is cooled at 50° F, proceeds through the sizing gauge, printer, and cutter and is loaded automatically onto a coiling table.
Coextruded flexible hose is produced in diameters of one-half inch to 6 inches and suitable to handle pressure of 20 inches of mercury and suction of 15-18 pounds per square inch. Clear tubing is produced in diameters of one-eighth inch to 1 inch for use with pressures up to about 8 psi.
Products include the Aqua flex, Aquatek and Clear-Tek brands of hose and tubing.
The firm uses conical twin- and single-screw extruders from ExtrusionTek Milacron. Six lines operate now, with lines seven and eight scheduled to begin operating in May.
Milacron's personal-computer-based Xtreem NT control permits two extruders to operate together. The control has Ethernet networking for the factory floor and incorporates Windows NT functions, including Internet capabilities.
Milacron's large-diameter, tapered Pinnacle E50 screws are used for the high-volume, high-head-pressure coextrusion applications. The E50's three-section barrel includes a conical feed section. The small exit diameter benefits pumping of material into the die area, Porter said.
For the rigid portion, Rocky Mountain Colby Pipe Co. supplies powder PVC that saves cents per pound vs. pellets. Roscom Inc. supplies PVC resin compounds for the flexible portion.
Downstream equipment includes Zumbach Electronics Corp.'s laser gauging systems for measuring outer diameters.
Stainless-steel hardware to filter and condition water helps the company deliver a better appearance at a reasonable cost. The hardware is easy to maintain and stays cool.
Genca Corp. makes the tools, based on concepts that Porter developed.
Tek-Tube employs 19, leases 45,000 square feet and has ISO certification. QMI Corp. certified the operation in March 1999.
The company's plans call for eventually investing in other processes, such as injection molding, to make different products.